Florida Gov. Approves Martin Island Purchase

Nassau County, 2/27/2003– The acquisition of Martin’s Island was approved by the Governor and the Cabinet Tuesday morning, a move that will put the 105-acre island into public ownership.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has been working to protect Martin’s Island, a pristine barrier island off the coast of northeast Florida just south of the Georgia border, for two years.

Developers had plans and permits to build 56 houses, each with its own septic tank. At TPL’s urging, they instead agreed to sell the land to the state. The action by the Governor and Cabinet today ensured the land will be preserved.

Greg Chelius, director of the trust’s Florida Office, praised the Governor and Cabinet’s decision.

“Without this appropriation, the subdivision of this near-pristine coastal gem would have been difficult to prevent,” said Chelius.

The 105-acre island, which is located in Nassau County just off Fernandina Beach, is surrounded completely by brackish tidal marshes and covered by oak trees laden with Spanish moss shading and sheltering a variety of wildlife. Looking northeast from the island, visitors are treated to a spectacular view of Cumberland Island National Seashore. To the east are the Intracoastal Waterway and Fernandina Beach. The island was occupied when rice and indigo were cultivated in the 1800s, but no one has lived there for many years. Martin’s Island and neighboring Tiger and Little Tiger Islands are the last privately held lands in a network of national and state parks and preserves stretching along the Atlantic coast. The island ecosystem is in almost pristine condition. Several threatened and endangered species, including bald eagles and wood storks, have been identified on the island in addition to other key species such as armadillos, peregrine falcons, raccoons, squirrels, wild boar, rattlesnakes, and deer.

The State of Florida plans to use the island, which is accessible only by boat, as an ecotourism educational center overseen by Fort Clinch State Park on neighboring Amelia Island.

“With its existing boat ramp, farmhouse, and maritime forest, Martin’s Island will be an ideal place to hold interpretive talks and educational tours for children and visitors seeking to learn about Florida history,” remarked Chelius.